Funny how an intention acts like a magnet. This past Thursday, the NOVA Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Billings showed Jacob Bernstein’s documentary Everything is Copy about his mother, Nora Ephron. The showing coincided with the play opening this week, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, co-written by Nora and her sister, Delia Ephron, based on the book by Ilene Beckerman (both the script and the book are on my TBR list). I had just finished reading I Remember Nothing the night before, adding it to the growing Finished list of Ephron writings I’d committed to reading this year.
The audience was cozy—three women (in addition to myself), one of whom was starring in the play; and two men, one being my husband, the other being one of Billings’s best actors and directors. Of these five attendees, I was likely the only person to have seen the film multiple times, although not recently. My husband had watched it the first time with me. And yet, I was as riveted as I was the first time, reveling in my co-viewers’ reactions while immersing myself in the images of the woman, interviews with those who knew her best, and excerpts from the writing I’ve been so intimate with these last three months. Writing, like its author, that I respect and admire and sometimes even envy. The more I read, the more I miss her.
Bernstein reveals his purpose right away—if his mother lived by this mantra “Everything is copy,” and made a career out of re-purposing the stories of her life, making them both funny and so matter-of-fact, then why did she not tell anyone about her illness?
I’ll not divulge the answer—you should see the film and decide if those who posited their theories were right—but it leaves me wondering about my own penchant for “everything is copy.” Is this the reason I’ve been so drawn to Ephron’s work all these years, because I followed this philosophy even before I was conscious of it? What have I chosen to keep private, and why? Is privacy extinct now, a myth?
The documentary ended to sniffles and tissues dabbing eyes as the lights came on. Even my husband was misty. We all chit-chatted for a bit afterwards. When I was introduced to the women (by our friend, the actor) as a novelist, one of the women asked what kind of novels I write. Not quite ready to put words together, I pointed to the screen. “Well, what we just saw,” I said. They seemed impressed.
My thoughts now seeming to catch up, I quickly corrected my mistake: “What I mean is, that’s what I’m trying to do. I keep falling short.”
The sadness stayed with me as my husband and I walked hand in hand to the car. I’ve been privileged to have many of those whose talent I admire and who have left a lasting impression on me--Aaron Sorkin, Patrick McDonnell, Duran Duran—but I will never get to meet Nora Ephron. I don’t know what I would have said to her had I had the chance—there’s a slight relief there. But I find myself wanting to somehow please her. I want to produce the same kind of material using the same subject matter, and yet somehow still manage to be authentic. I want people to read my work and say, "If you like Nora Ephron, you'll like Elisa Lorello." It’s not so much that I want to write exactly like her, but I want to write something that would have made her take notice. That would have made her want to make a movie about it. That would have made her invite me over for lunch, even if she did chide me for being such a picky eater.
Most of all, I want this Year of Nora Ephron to have a purpose in that I want to give something back that has focus, direction, meaning. I am hoping that this blog series will uncover it, one post at a time. Until then, I’ll just keep reading. And, as Nora was once instructed to do, take notes.
Do you have a favorite Nora Ephron quote? I want to know. Please leave a comment and share.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.